Georgia, South Carolina meet fresh off big victories

When Georgia and South Carolina clash Wednesday night, both teams hope to harness some of the momentum generated by weekend victories over Top 25 teams.

On a Saturday that proved foul for nationally ranked SEC teams on the road, Mark Fox’s Bulldogs (15-11, 6-8) knocked off then-No. 18 Tennessee 73-62 in Athens while Frank Martin’s Gamecocks (14-13, 5-9) bested then-No. 10 Auburn 84-75 in Columbia (and for the record, then-No. 21 Texas A&M lost at Arkansas on Saturday).

With plenty still at stake and the end of the season coming into view, both teams will be poised for a good showing, especially considering that in the past five games between Georgia and South Carolina -- the Gamecocks have won three consecutive against the Bulldogs – a combined 18 points have separated the winner and the loser; in three of those games, the margin of victory was two points or less.

“Every game against Frank’s teams have been rock fights, if you will, and I anticipate this will be another one,” Fox said Monday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “His teams have been so hard-nosed and gritty that they force you to toughen up in battle, and hopefully our guys will be up to the challenge.”

“I don’t think Mark and I have ever in our time together in this league (had a moment) when either one of us sat down the last minute of the game and knew we were winning,” Martin said Monday.

The Gamecocks, who snapped a six-game losing streak with their victory against Auburn, beat the Bulldogs 64-57 on Jan. 13 in a game in which Georgia’s Yante Maten scored 25 points, but didn’t get much help from fellow big men Rayshaun Hammonds and Derek Ogebeide, who combined for three points.

It’s been a different story for Ogebeide lately, as the 6-foot-8 junior forward recorded back-to-back double-doubles last week, with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Florida and 16 points and 11 rebounds against Tennessee.

“I respect the heck out of him,” Martin said of Ogebeide. “I’ve seen him develop from high school to where he is now. He’s had a pretty darn good year for them. Obviously the first time we played … from a statistics standpoint he didn’t play real well. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.

“To know where he was at when I saw him in high school to where he’s at now, it’s unbelievable and that’s a credit to him, Mark and his staff and his teammates. I expect him to play a lot better against us on Wednesday.”

After a three-point, zero-rebound game against Mississippi State, Ogebeide went from starter to sub, but has responded well, although fouls limited his production against Auburn.

“Obviously he’s handled the move very well,” Fox said. “I thought Derek had a tremendous response to coming off the bench. Not one second did he feel sorry for himself or act selfish. He just went about trying to improve his play, and he’s done that.”

Wednesday’s marquee matchup will pit Maten – the league’s leading scorer at 19.5 points per game -- against South Carolina’s Chris Silva, who’s averaging 14.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per night.

The 6-8 senior, the only player ranked in the SEC’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and minutes played, said after Saturday’s win over Tennessee that they weren’t faced with a “do-or-die scenario” last week, but did take a “we’re a good team, let’s go prove it” mentality against the Gators and Volunteers.

“We’re a capable team. (Fox) said to not give up, and that’s why we make sure every time we touch the court, it’s going to be a ballgame,” Maten said. “We’re a good basketball team, and we proved that this week. Now we’re just looking to go to the next game and try to do the same thing.”

The Bulldogs will be back in Stegeman Colisem for a 2 p.m. tip Saturday against LSU and will close the regular season hosting Texas A&M on Feb. 28 and playing at Tennessee on March 3.